Bottling Day at Jester King


One of my friends asked me to come down for a bottling day at Jester King Brewery in Austin, Texas this past week. He’s been a few times and knew the ropes and all of the hard work the volunteers put in to help out a favorite local brewery. I’m a huge fan of Jester King, the beers they make and the hand-crafted nature of their approach to making beer.  This appreciation provided a huge boost of enthusiasm to help cope with the over 100F degree temperature encountered during the 8+ hour work day.

With the help of probably 10 or so volunteers and some brewery employees we packaged 200+ cases of Funk Metal, a barrel-aged sour stout beer. Funk Metal has a special place in my cellar; it has displayed New Belgium’s La Folie as my favorite sour beer that I’ve tasted.

The work day began with assembling all of those boxes with inserts, followed by marking the boxes and placing inventory labels on each box in the 5-high stacks. We watched as the brewers readied the beer for bottling by recirculating the beer in the tank with sugar and healty pitch of Brett. Drie yeast for bottle conditioning. The light smell of tart, lactic, sour beer flooded the air, along with all of the crazy awesome Funk music blasting out the brewery speakers.


176 bottles per layer, 14 rows of 7 and 13 rows of 6. 7 layers per pallet combine to make over 1200 bottles. Yeah, lots of bottles.

Close to noon, the bottling line was taking form. I was placed at the bottle prep station where we unpacked pallets of belgian brown glass bottles, over 1200 per pallet. Each bottle was placed into a cleaning station where sanitizer was used to prepare the bottle for filling. As the filler pulled from the rack, we replaced a new bottle and then opened the valve to clean another set of bottles. This line ran continuously for 6 hours. As we used the bottles, we opened up the next layer (7 layers total) and eventually replaced the pallet with another one.


After the bottles were filled, the next station used a co2-driven capper and passed the bottle to a group wiping the bottles down and checking the fill level. Once the bottles dried a bit, the label station applied the amazing artwork labels Jester King beers are known for and the UPC and batch label. All of the bottles were then boxed and stacked on a pallet. Full pallets were moved back into cold storage for conditioning for a few months before being released into the market.


Jester King Salt Lick Smoked Saison — in a word? Amazing!

One of the great perks of working at the brewery is sampling of the great beer. All throughout the day the team sampled a few of the beers on tap. My favorite for the day was the Salt Lick smoked saison which is a blend of a young saison with some old aged sour beer yielding a very smooth, slightly smokey but tart, crisp finishing beer. It was a huge thirst quencher.

When we weren’t sampling the great beer at Jester King we were drinking some flavorful bottled rainwater. It’s amazing how much better that water tasted than the normally sterile store bottled water.

Heading home in the evening I was exhausted, hot, sweating, tired, but laden with beer-sweat-equity; some bottles of Funk Metal that didn’t make the cut.

At the end of the day, my friend asked me if it was worth all of the hard work, and all I could say was that even without the beer I would definitely do it again.

Thanks Jester King!

Something old and Something New – Taa Dow


If you give me 10 hops then I use all 10!

Double IPAs are just fabulous. I just can’t get enough of them. I’m a huge fan of the Stone Enjoy-by series. As far as I’m concerned it’s a win-win-win situation. Stone makes an incredible hoppy, fresh beer that needs to be distributed, served and drunk in the span of months. I’ve never tasted a fresher IPA than one I’ve brewed myself.

On that path, even though I just brewed an Imperial IPA, ff3k, there’s nothing wrong with following up with another one.  This recipe caught my eye after appearing on a list of beers that *must* be tried passed to me by a friend.  The first beer, Heady Topper caught my eye as I didn’t know it was an Imperial IPA and I had seen a huge thread on  where many homebrewers had been working to clone the beer.

One can never be completely sure if the recipe isn’t shared from the brewery; and even if it is, the differences in equipment and process can definitely affect the final beer.  That means it’s a bit of a gamble if you’ll actually clone the beer.

None of that concerns me though as I know a good IPA recipe when I see one.  Thanks to a dedicated group on and Signpost Craft Brewing, we’ve got something close to Heady Topper.

Here’s my take, note I couldn’t find the Pearl malt in large enough quantities, so I’m using Marris Otter.

Recipe Details

Batch Size Boil Time IBU SRM Est. OG Est. FG ABV
6 gal 90 min 188.2 IBUs 7.3 SRM 1.077 1.013 8.5 %
Actuals 1.073 1.01 8.3 %

Style Details

Name Cat. OG Range FG Range IBU SRM Carb ABV
Imperial IPA 14 C 1.07 - 1.09 1.01 - 1.02 60 - 120 8 - 15 2.2 - 2.7 7.5 - 10 %


Name Amount %
Maris Otter (Thomas Fawcett) 15.022 lbs 88
White Wheat Malt 15.57 oz 5.7
CaraMalt 8.19 oz 3
Turbinado 9.01 oz 3.3


Name Amount Time Use Form Alpha %
Hopshot 12.02 oz 90 min Boil Pellet 3.5
Columbus (Tomahawk) 1.2 oz 5 min Boil Pellet 14.7
Apollo 0.6 oz 5 min Boil Pellet 18
Columbus (Tomahawk) 2.4 oz 0 min Boil Pellet 14
Columbus (Tomahawk) 1.2 oz 30 min Aroma Pellet 14
Simcoe 1.2 oz 0 min Boil Pellet 13
Simcoe 1.2 oz 30 min Aroma Pellet 13
Amarillo Gold 0.9 oz 30 min Aroma Pellet 8.5
Apollo 0.6 oz 30 min Aroma Pellet 12.5
Centennial 0.6 oz 30 min Aroma Pellet 10.5
Simcoe 2.4 oz 8 days Dry Hop Pellet 13
Columbus (Tomahawk) 1.8 oz 8 days Dry Hop Pellet 14
Amarillo Gold 1.2 oz 8 days Dry Hop Pellet 8.5
Centennial 1.2 oz 8 days Dry Hop Pellet 10.5
Apollo 0.6 oz 8 days Dry Hop Pellet 17


Name Lab Attenuation Temperature
American Ale (1056) Wyeast Labs 75% 60°F - 72°F


Step Temperature Time
Mash In 150°F 60 min

The Sour Pipeline


This past Friday, I brewed the next beer in the sour pipeline.  I’ve been alternating back to a Flanders Red this time, and one of my all-time favorite beers and sours.  New Belgium‘s La Folie.

I fell in love with La Folie in 2008 and in early 2009 the Texas market was flush with the newly introduced Lips of Faith series along with hand-bottled batches of La Folie.  I scavenged the Austin market and obtain nearly 2 cases of this amazing beer and I still have 4 or 5 of these sours aging.

Handbottled La Folie, number 491, bottled in January 2009.

Handbottled La Folie, number 491, bottled in January 2009.

This brewnight was also the 6 month date from the first sour beer I brewed with the Roeselares yeast with some help from some of my favorite local sour beers from Jester King and it was time to make room in the sour pipeline.

As I brewed the La Folie recipe found in an older BYO article, I transferred the original Flanders Red, in Rubicundiusque or Ruby as it’s now called, into a keg for serving.  The beer had matured wonderfully.  In the last month it had been resting on a couple ounces of Pinot Noir oak cubes providing some wine-barrel like flavors and aromas.

All of these great aromatics and tastes were present in the samples.  The sour aspect wasn’t nearly as potent as La Folie, but Ruby is definitively sour and strikes a great balance on the pallete for an unblended sour.

After moving Ruby out of the carboy with oak cubes it was time to transfer in the second sour in the pipe line: 5 gallons of Fancy Lad.  Early sampling of this beer showed great things happening but the lighter gravity left the mouthfeel a bit thin.  I decided that I would  bolster this with some malto-dextrin.  I settled on 4 ounces in the  5 gallons.  I mixed the malto-dextrin with 16 oz of water and boiled for 5 minutes before adding it to the bottom of the carboy to help mix it in when racking from the source carboy into the target.

Once the brew session was complete, the La Folie wort went into a carboy with the Roeselares/Jester King dregs yeast cake.

After primary fermentation is complete in a few weeks I plan to enjoy a very aged and tasty 2009 La Folie and pour the dregs of this great beer into my La Folie.  I can only hope this will impart at least some of La Folie’s greatness into my beer.

Here’s the recipe

Recipe Details

Batch Size Boil Time IBU SRM Est. OG Est. FG ABV
5 gal 60 min 20.3 IBUs 11.8 SRM 1.062 1.014 6.3 %
Actuals 1.046 1.01 4.7 %

Style Details

Name Cat. OG Range FG Range IBU SRM Carb ABV
Flanders Red Ale 17 B 1.048 - 1.057 1.002 - 1.012 10 - 25 10 - 16 2.2 - 2.7 4.6 - 6.5 %


Name Amount %
Brewer's Malt, 2-Row, Premium (Great Western) 9.75 lbs 75.03
Crystal, Medium (Simpsons) 1.31 lbs 10.08
Munich Malt 1.31 lbs 10.08
Wheat, Flaked 10 oz 4.81


Name Amount Time Use Form Alpha %
Liberty 1.06 oz 60 min Boil Pellet 3.9


Name Amount Time Use Type
Calcium Chloride 5.00 g 60 min Mash Water Agent
Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) 2.70 g 60 min Mash Water Agent
Epsom Salt (MgSO4) 0.50 g 60 min Mash Water Agent
Whirlfloc Tablet 1.00 Items 15 min Boil Fining
Yeast Nutrient 1.00 tsp 5 min Boil Other


Name Lab Attenuation Temperature
American Ale (1056) Wyeast Labs 75% 60°F - 72°F
Belgian Lambic Blend (3278) Wyeast Labs 70% 63°F - 75°F


Step Temperature Time
Saccharification 152°F 75 min
Mash Out 168°F 10 min


Mash at 154 °F (68 °C). Boil for 60 minutes. Ferment with neutral ale yeast at 75 °F (24 °C), then rack to barrel and add sour blend. Aging time is totally up to the barrel. This is where years of tasting and blending come in handy. If you want to blend, try ~ 20% of a sweeter (younger) barrel, ~30% of a nice mild sour barrel and ~50% of a well established “tour gripper” with nice oak notes (cherries, horse blanket, etc). (Young usually means ~ 1 year, mid range ~2 years and grippers are 3+ years.) But there are no rules here. Do whatever works for you.

Don’t have the budget (or room) for a barrel? Try this “poor man’s” method of emulating some of the aspects of barrel aging. Conduct your primary fermentation in a bucket or ferment the beer with ale yeast, then rack it to a bucket — adding any “bugs” that may be called for. Buckets are more permeable to oxygen than barrels are, so let the beer condition in the bucket for only about 3 months, then rack it to a carboy for the remaining conditioning time. Two weeks before racking, take 3.0 oz. (85 g) of oak cubes (French oak, medium toast) and soak them in wine. Use Chardonnay for the Temptation clone, Pinot Noir for La Roja, Cabernet Sauvignon for Darth Porter and Burgundy or Meritage for Grand Cru and La Folie. Change wine every 3 days to lessen the intensity of the new oak. Add cubes when beer is racked to carboy.